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Blackwork Embroidery

Definition and Stitchers' Resources



Blackwork, also known as Spanish Work, is a type of counted thread embroidery thought to have originated in Spain. It was brought to England by Catherine of Aragon, the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain when married Prince Arthur, the eldest son of King Henry VII.

In spite of this pedigree, new evidence and research has shown that North Africa, particularly Morocco, may have been the true birthplace of this style of embroidery.

Blackwork is a counted thread techniques and is traditionally worked in black thread on white evenweave fabric, but today is often worked in multiple or other single colors.

1. Practical Blackwork

Practical Blackwork

The Practial Blackwork site has posted several free patterns to stitch, including the Ukrainian Rhapsody design shown here. Download the pdf pattern directly from their site.

The site also features free patterns designed by Kim Salazar, Author of "The New Carolingian Modelbook" for borders and fillings.

2. Tom Pudding Designs

© Jan Eaton/Tom Pudding Designs 1999-2011

Search for free, printable designs by category.

The website states, "Tom Pudding Designs published Jan Eaton's designs for cross stitch, blackwork and needlepoint from 1999 until 2005. The original designs are gradually being made available here as free downloads" and there are a lot of designs here to see!

3. Needle Delights

Rainbow Gallery
This web site has posted a free pattern provided by Rainbow Gallery Threads for three blackwork ladies that you can download and stitch on 28-count linen.

4. Costume Captures

Blackwork has played an important role in the history of fashion. On this site, you can see period-inspired costuming from cinema like this one featuring blackwork shirts from The Countess.

5. Needlework Tips & Techniques

Carol Leather

This site, run by Carol Leather, features several free blackwork patterns that are suitable for the beginner, including this simple rosette design or the blackwork pears pattern.

Carol has also posted a helpful page covering fill patterns in detail, as well as working compensation stitches and tips for choosing a suitable fill.

6. Save the Stitches

Nordic Needle

The Nordic Needle has posted an excellent history of Blackwork on their Save the Stitches site.

In addition to historical information, this page also discusses the embroidery fabrics, needles and threads or fibers typically used for blackwork, as well as tips and tricks, and techniques to try.

7. About.com Cross Stitch

© Connie G. Barwick, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Cross Stitch Guide Connie G. Barwick has posted an extensive list of free blackwork patterns,including design shown here.

8. The Blackwork Archives

Paul Kate Marmor

This site, produced by Paul Kate Marmor, is dedicated solely to Blackwork, and features a wealth of Elizabethan patterns inspired by 16th and 17th century designs. Be sure to check out the Gallery to see how the designs have been used for costumes.

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